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Monday 11 July 2011

Day 62 - Swamp Home Alabama

Todays mileage: 95
Total mileage: 3,127
End point: Meaher State Park, AL
(On the causeway across Mobile Bay)

I slept pretty bad last night, it didn't cool down really until 1am and the insect orchestra was playing one of its latest concertos at full volume. When I awoke at 6am I felt tired and grumpy and this would go on through out the day. My plan for an early start was to enable me to cycle to cycle to McLain on highway 98 with no shoulder for 10 miles, without getting run over. It was a good plan because the road really was quiet.

Here I came off and would take quieter back roads. In McLain I was flagged down by a man in a very smart suit who it turned out was a pastor. He was looking for some inspiration for his sermon and asked what was the key to being a long distance bike rider. He suggested endurance, which I agreed with, but I pressed to him pragmatism was key, he nodded and said 'flexibility' - with a few scribbles on a note pad he was off wishing me farewell.

The route I had selected was on google maps was a yellow road (no oz jokes required) - which I took to mean as paved, as opposed to the thin grey lines which couild be anything. I was wrong but only for about 8 miles. This 8 miles was brutal as the road had lots of mini ruts which were bone shakers, a bit like a ski run which has been well tracked at the end of the day. Negotiating the ruts was made extra difficult as any turn in the lose gravely sand could result in a skid, this was back to Kansas! Half way through this road I decided to take a break at McClelland Lake. Pam says she likes it when I do self potraits so I decided this would be a good time. I placed my helmet on my panier, and then in slow motion watched it slide off, hit the frame, bounce onto the bridge railing and then plunge downwards about 6 foot into the water. I looked down; calling this a lake was a stretch, it was a friggin swamp.

I considered my options for a few minutes. I really didn't want to ride with out a helmet or buy another one, nor did't I want to swim in this thing, for all I knew this was another pit of gators. I considered for a moment inflating my bed and floating out to it, hmm.. maybe not. After a few minutes I noticed my helmet was very very slowly moving towards the far bank and so I decided to wait it out. Except I had to get to the far bank which was a trip through the Mississippi jungle of thorns, mud and dead trees. Once I got to the far bank I managed to find an exceptionally long branch and pull the helmet to safety. The helmet floated but I still got some swamp water on my head.

I cycled on to Lucedale and stopped at mcdonalds, now I have ben getting a lot of stick for stopping at mcds but I should point out 2 of the reasons. Firstly I know they have wifi so I can upload this blog for you lot, and secondly unlimited fountain refills for $1 which when its 40c is a necessity. A student who was eating there took an interest in my trip and insisted I had one of her spare cherry pies - thanks! Mr Palmer has also realised he can now spy on me with google latitude. I should have told everyone this 60 days ago but if you add me you can see my exact movements, and tim was obviously following this and no doubt at least 3 other sporting events. From Lucedale I cycled to the state line, which because it was a backroad had no markings to indicate this, the only way you could tell was because of the road surface change - its pictured above.

The road to Mobile seemed to take forever, not helped by my tiredness and the noticable aggression of drivers in Alabama in their big trucks, compared to Mississippi. Mobile's suburbs semed to stretch out forever and unfortunately it looked like I would have to take a massive detour. To get on to the bay there are either two tunnels or a much longer northern route via a bridge. From what I could make out the tunnels would not be good for bicycles and following my bridge crossing and near death a few days back I decided to take the longer route over the big bridge with a shoulder. This involved me cycling about 5 miles through north Mobile. Now let me tell you I don't want to swear to much in this blog, but northern mobile is a complete and utter shithole. Really really bad, crumbling houses, more boys in the hood, I was not waiting around and kept the pace up. Eventually I got to the port area and onto route 98 and the causeway. I was greated by delightful sea air and the retired USS Alabama docked up as a museum.

One thing I wanted to mention today which summed up my mood, is ice. Ice that you get from fountain drinks machines. So you can buy a cup of it, normally 50 cents - fair enough. However when I filled up a number of times I have got charged for 2, this can be annoying when they have really large cups which hold the ice of both my water bottles. So I went into the gas station and filled up a huge cup, and took it to the counter. The guy behind the counter asked me why I did that, he said it was free if I used my own cups. Grrrr - Alanis Morisette needs to add a new verse to her ironic song.

I completed my ride along the causeway which crosses the bay for a good 3 miles and have arrived in the state park. I haven't paid yet as the price quoted is $30, but I reckon that's for an RV so I have taken refuge under one of the picnic areas out of everyones way. Paying $30 for this would be a joke. When I got to the park I was accosted by a man called Gary, nice chap but it soon turned out he was on a missionary mission and was asking me some strange questions. It turned out he was a Jehovah's witness. Unfortunately his talk was obviously aimed at converting other Christian denominations and so didn't work well on me! He did however give me some burning alcohol for my stove and for 30 minutes of interesting debate I thought this was a good deal. I also have some fresh reading material ;)

Tomorrow I'm heading on to Pensacola and Florida - exciting stuff as I enter my final state. I'm getting close!

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